Palm oil contains carcinogenic and genotoxic substances. Efsa alert for children and adolescents. In Italy record consumption


Palm oil contains three toxic contaminants (one of which is classified as genotoxic and carcinogenic), which is why the consumption of food products with discrete amounts of the tropical fat is not recommended for children and adolescents
. This is what is stated in the meaty dossier from the European Food Safety Authority. (Efsa), 159 pages where health risks related to the presence of three contaminants formed in the refining process at high temperatures (200°C) are assessed: fatty acid glycidyl esters (GE), 3-monochloropropanediol (3-MCPD) and 2-monochloropropanediol (2-MCPD). The problem also affects some other vegetable oils and margarines, but the salient point is that tropical fat contains 6 to 10 times as much. The foods under indictment include snacks, cookies, breadsticks, crackers, rusks, baked goods, and baby foods made with the tropical fat.

The situation seems quite serious. For glycidyl esters of fatty acids (GE), in fact, no tolerable intake threshold has been established, precisely because it is a carcinogenic and genotoxic substance whose presence in food cannot be allowed. The Efsa ‘panel’ therefore concluded that GEs are a potential health problem especially for children and young people, and for all those people who consume foods rich in palm fatty acids. Critical issues also arise for children who consume exclusively infant formula.

The topic is not new. Efsa reports that the amount of GE in palm oils and fats has been cut in half over the past 5 years, thanks to improvements in the production process. During the same period, however, palm oil consumption in Italy has quadrupled in the last 5 years, thus negating the reduction of risks related to technological progress (imports increased from 274 thousand tons in 2011, to 821 thousand tons in 2015 – Istat).

Efsa then set a tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 0.8 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day for 3-MCPD, in the absence of sufficient toxicological data to establish a safe level for 2-MCPD. The most significant intake of these contaminants always comes from palm oil, and Efsa’s opinion is equally harsh: “the amounts for children and adolescents (up to 18 years) exceed the tolerable daily intake and pose a potential health risk.”

Palm oil consumption in Italy has now reached record levels. In Europe we are the main users and consumption is record-breaking, 12 grams per day per capita. This critical issue was also highlighted two months ago in an Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) dossier on palm oil, where it was stated that Italian children consume 49 percent more saturated fat than recommended by Larn and Efsa, and that much of the excess (41 percent of the maximum amount) is due to the consumption of palm oil added in industrial foods.

The use of tropical fat appears less and less tolerable, despite the massive advertising investments of its producers and large users, who insist on the impossible defense of its supposed sustainability and naturalness. And in fact, on both the industrial and retail fronts, operators most attentive to the sensitivities expressed by Italian consumers have already distanced themselves from palm, resorting to fats and oils more consistent with our traditions and nutritional needs. There are now more than 700 ‘palm free’ products on the market, thanks in part to the awareness campaign and petition by Il Fatto Alimentare and on, which has collected more than 175 thousand signatures.

Great Italian Food Trade and The Food Fact



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